Brother Jack Henn: VP Role Just One More Way to Serve
"I love being in the missions, too. But I can be happy in either place. It's very humbling to serve in this position and very gratifying to sense the other men's trust in me. I think I have some administrative gifts. Another person might do the work as well or better, but his heart might not be in it. I can feel fulfilled here, while many wouldn't be."
Brother Jack says he enjoys working with his fellow Executive Council members, president Father Chet Artysiewicz and first vice president Father Neil Pezzulo. And he feels blessed to be on this team, helping Glenmary meet its future challenges and opportunities.
What is most important, he believes, is finding one's own best way to serve God and other people. Almost four decades ago, he found his answer with Glenmary.
A Bellevue, Ky., native, he grew up and attended Catholic schools not far from Glenmary's Headquarters in Cincinnati. After college, he joined a national accounting firm and later became a corporate auditor for Federated Department Stores, Inc.
He spent three years climbing the corporate ladder—but after a year, he knew he wanted something different. "I felt a desire to give of myself to God and other people in a more significant way," he says, possibly as a Catholic brother.
Brother Jack had never heard of Glenmary until his mother mentioned an article about the home mission society that she had seen in the diocesan newspaper. He called the vocation director and ended up participating in a discernment weekend at Glenmary Farm.
"After that one great weekend and a month at a mission," he says, "I knew Glenmary was what I had been looking for."
He took his First Oath in 1976 and accepted his first full-time assignment in 1978 as parish brother at the Sylvania, Ga., mission. He quickly became well known and respected for his diverse volunteer work. Among other activities, he served as scoutmaster for a Boy Scout troop, coached kids in softball and basketball, and was a board member for the county Christian Youth Organization. He also served the local elderly, helped mentally and physically challenged and disabled people, and regularly visited the hospital and county nursing home.
Brother Jack says this Sylvania assignment ranks as his "favorite experience."
When he left Georgia after four years, he became a vocation counselor and then vocation director (1982-88; 1995-96). "That's the call of the missionary," he says, in reflecting on his Glenmary ministry transitions. "You do everything you can, plant the seed, prepare for others to continue the work, and move on."
From 1988 to 1989 he worked with residents of a homeless shelter in Sautee, Ga. And then came other behind-the-scenes roles as director of the candidacy program and co-director of the novitiate program (1990-94).
He entered a new phase in 1995, being elected to two four-year terms as Glenmary's second vice president. "I get kidded about enjoying meetings," he says. "But at their best they're about exchanging ideas, creating new ones and making things better."
However, Brother Jack says his favorite part of serving in leadership has been the one-on-one annual visits each council member has with other Glenmarians. "I feel honored and privileged to be part of those conversations."
He returned to mission life in 2007, moving to the Windsor, N.C., mission. "It's a challenge and gift to develop your own ministries," he says. "God can open up all kinds of unexpected doors." In this case, those doors led to his work with the elderly at two nursing homes and a hospice facility; his key role in establishing and operating a food pantry, an unprecedented ecumenical effort in that county; and other ministries.
When the 2011 Glenmary council election process began, says Brother Jack, "I was perfectly happy in Windsor. But I had to be open to the possibility I might be called."
And so he returned to Cincinnati as second vice president. He says the new council is helping Glenmary address key issues—including the ongoing need for vocations; the preparation of students from other cultures for future ministry; the preparation of all Glenmarians for multicultural living and ministry; the implementation of Glenmary's mission plan; the ongoing need for fundraising; and the possible enhancement of communication efforts to educate people about the home missions and inspire their support.
He feels very positive about Glenmary's future. "I'm very honored and privileged to be a Glenmary brother. It's been a lifelong adventure with many joys, challenges and opportunities to grow. I believe Glenmary is still an attractive choice for those looking for a way to live meaningful lives of service, or as a ministry people believe in and want to help."
This article appears in the May 2012 Boost-A-Month Club newsletter.